I'm interested in how Viking era1) hikers carried their gear and provisions while out and about on foot. My focus here would be longer walks in civilian life, e.g. to get from farm A to farm B. I.e. no raiding parties, travel on horse back, etc...

I have seen some interpretations in videos of reenactment groups where simple wooden racks made out of split branches are used (e.g. video here). In others I have seen people simply carry a cloth bag over their shoulder, or bundles held together with a belt carried on the back by holding on to one end of the belt with one hand. At least the two latter examples don't seem very practical, as they don't leave your hands free and are prone to be rather tiring over longer distances.

I do realise that civilians walking long distances was probably not something that was very common at the time - at least not without good reason. These reasons would of course likely dictate how said marches were done and what kind of equipment was used (if any at all). Meaning that farmer Jo Jonson probably spent all his life on his farm and maybe the ones around him, and didn't venture out into the wide world carrying lot's of stuff...
Still, if possible, I'm looking for sources (preferably archaeological finds, depictions or texts) that give some idea of the available possibilities.

1) I'm mostly interested in lets say ca. 800-1000 AD Scandinavia. (This is still very broad, I can refine it if necessary.)

  • I thought I'd seen something about a pole over the shoulder dragging on the ground rather like a travois, used somewhere in Europe (likely Britain) . But a quick search isn't getting me anywhere.
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 8:47
  • Some of the answer is, they didn't. People in the middle ages rarely ventured far from where they we're born. A trip of a few 10s of miles was considered massive. The only people who did travel we're rich people and their armies. These would of had the money to buy horses, carts and boats for travelling. The Vikings, particularly, we're raiders/traders who mainly travelled by boat, the Scandinavian fjords we're ideal for a sea based civilisation.
    – user2766
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 9:49
  • The vikings did venture inland (Russia) as well. Really they we're the exception in this period, the poor climate, soils, etc. of Scandinavia led to them to find wealth/land by travelling. But ultimately poor farmer Jo Blogs in Bergen likely never left his farm or the surrounding farms.
    – user2766
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 9:52
  • In the middle ages people used a bundle tied on a stick carried over one shoulder, see Grimm's fairy tales. Since this is an obvious thing to do and uses things you would have to hand, I would guess it's what the average Joe Peasant always did.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 13:56

1 Answer 1


This can be answered pretty precisely. They used the so called "Gokstad backpack".


The Gokstad 'backpack:' this is an oval cross-sectioned tube of leather or woven birch bark, attached to a thin wooden base and with a wooden lid and shoulder straps attached. More details may be found on this website

Unfortunately the linked website in the quote is not reachable anymore.

enter image description here

enter image description here

This thread might be really interesting for you: https://www.reddit.com/r/Norse/comments/2wcc9x/did_vikings_use_backpacks_and_other_carrying/

  • 4
    There really is a reddit for everything... :) Thanks!
    – fgysin
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 10:53
  • These were in use in rural Germany until the 20th century. Historical costumes sometimes include them.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 13:53
  • The strapping in the first picture looks less than ideal.
    – user8348
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 18:46
  • 2
    Pack baskets! A classic that persists across time and continents.
    – cr0
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 21:10
  • 4
    Hi OddDeer! This is an interesting answer. Would you please add source links to those pictures? That would insure that we're following the rules of attribution, plus they might lead to websites for more information. Thanks! Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 0:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.